Tips-as-we-go quilting (6)

It’s taken me a few days to sit down and write this final installment to this series of posts following the ups and downs of quilting my entry for the Quilts UK 2017 ‘Gardener’s World’ theme. I’ll start with the finish – the photo was taken at 7.45am on a gloomy day (a few minutes before my two quilt holder-upper-ers left for work – bless).

In the Cool of the Evening
Photo of ‘In the Cool of the Evening’ taken in the gloom of the morning! I hope you can see the general idea – a birds-eye view of a formal garden?

I had to whizz up to  my local store to buy some brown paper and bubble wrap before parceling-up the quilt and trotting in the opposite direction to the post office.

Yeah! Quilt in a parcel, ready to go 🙂

Now I’ve taken the tension out of the ‘will she, won’t she finish the quilt?’ story I hope you can relax and spare a few minutes to re-live with me the final few days of quilting 🙂

Having quilted leaves all over the green hedges my next adventure was to quilt flowers through the flower beds. I used an off-white Aurifil thread (2311) and began quilting flowers by stitching five or six petals around a little circle, linking the flowers with a few loops along a wavy line. This went fairly well… Though when I checked the back of the quilt I noticed I was creating some ‘eye-lash’ stitches. *SIGH*

Eyelash stitches

I knew these could be caused by incorrect thread tension but having readjusted the tension to resolve the  skipped stitches issue earlier in this quilting adventure I was very reluctant to make any further adjustments. And, it was more likely that the eye-lashes were being caused by me failing to coordinate machine speed (via the foot pedal) and the movement of the quilt (via hand speed). I took to the internet straight away to help me overcome this issue. I found two helpful articles that agreed on the cause but gave different solutions:

  • Leah Day – advises allowing hands to do what comes naturally, concentrating on pressure foot control to speed up and slow down as necessary (click here to read Leah’s advice).
  • Ruth Whitehall – advises keeping foot control pressure constant and practicing keeping hand speed consistent – not speeding up around curves (click here to read Ruth’s advice).

I’m not quite sure which of the two strategies I employed but I did end up quilting those flowers at quite a high speed so the stitch length became quite titchy (unpicking those teeny stitches would be a nightmare!). Anyway, the increased speed must have helped my hand-foot coordination as there were fewer eye-lash stitches following the change.


The next areas to be quilted were the four central flowerbeds. I decided to quilt undulating petal-like shapes spirally out from the centre of each bed. Hum! I have to confess that as I struggled to keep the quilt moving, it’s bulk pushing against the throat of the machine and it’s weight pulling away behind the machine, I did lose my temper! Grrr! No rude words were spoken but I did growl! I tried putting on some favourite music to calm me but found I was concentrating so hard that any sounds were distracting – my poor little brain just couldn’t take anymore!

Spiral fmq flowers

Fmq pebblingNonetheless I soldiered on and completed the flowerbed sections. Then I had fun pebbling some sections of the paths. It was easier to manage these areas as they are towards the outer edges of the quilt so I didn’t find myself fighting with so much bulk in the throat of the machine. I debated adding more quilting to the rest of the paths but, quite frankly, I’d run out of time. The fabric in the paths is a bit puffy in places and overall the density of stitching across the quilt is not as even I had planned – I was intending to have stitching lines about 2 inches apart, actually they are more like 1 inch apart which makes the paths look even more ‘under-stitched’ (hope you know what I mean?).

Quilted ripples on the pond
I created a ripple effect over the ponds.
Label and quilting
The label is part of the pieced backing and I’m pleased with the variety of quilting patterns that have covered it 🙂

The quilt was easy to square up and trim – I guess all that quilting in the outer borders helped it keep it’s shape. On Thursday evening, before transforming my sewing room into the guest room, I added the binding: fully intending to hand stitch it to the back of the quilt whilst sitting with our guests over the weekend. But I didn’t… I took the weekend off, enjoying the company of our guests before spending Tuesday stitching the binding in a remarkably clean and tidy sewing room 🙂

So, my final tips and techniques gleaned from quilting this project:

  • Practice squares can take you only so far! Quilting over seams feels very different from quilting over a smooth piece of fabric – the needle can ‘stick’ and judder.
  • I repeat: Practice squares can take you only so far! The weight and bulk of a quilt slows down it’s movement causing quilting speed to change.
  • I found stitching over busy prints quite difficult – a few times I just couldn’t see how close the needle was to previous lines of stitching! In the middle of all this quilting I read a great post by Christina demonstrating her use of printed fabrics to practice fmq skills.
  • I’d definitely recommend wearing gloves with rubber tipped fingers. When I forgot to put mine on I really noticed a reduction in the control I had over the quilt’s movement and an increase in the pressure I was having to apply through my shoulders down to my finger tips.

Working to a deadline was both tough and motivating. Entering a quilt into a national exhibition was a goal I’d set myself. I posted the quilt to the organisers on Wednesday, I’m just starting to feel good about achieving this goal – it kinda took over everything and was quite draining! With reference to my word of the year, VENTURE, I’d say that designing and completing this quilt has pushed me beyond what I thought I could achieve, I’ve had to keep going, accepting imperfections, making peace with myself with regard to those imperfections. It’s been immensely satisfying and I’m really looking forward to handing my camera to someone at the exhibition and asking them to take a photo of me and my quilt 🙂

I have loads of projects crowding into my mind but first my weary sewing machine is going for respite care – a well deserved and rather belated service.

Linking with Myra for Finished or Not Friday and Amanda Jean for Finish It Up Friday.



2 thoughts on “Tips-as-we-go quilting (6)

  1. I think it’s really beautiful, striking with the red brick path against the cool blues and greens. Your instincts for design are spot on, even with your frustrations on the quilting.

    Right now I’m working on a practice quilt. It’s quite hard to move the longarm smoothly for long, smooth curves. Instead I’m getting a lot of wobbling. The practice will improve it (prior to the “real” quilt) but I believe I’ll have to embrace it and look at the wobbles as a feature instead of a fault. :/

    • Practicing on real quilts is scary. Funny though – I wanted to take another photo of those eyelash stitches after finishing my quilt and hard as I tried I couldn’t find them! Probably your wobbly curves won’t be nearly as noticeable once you’ve stepped away from working up close on the quilt ☺


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